Liz Maw & Seung Yul Oh

Liz Maw, Francis Upritchard

Saturday 4 December - Saturday 19 February 2011

 "I am often thinking of a person and some archetypal phenomenon, the ideas gather while I am painting. When they come together it’s like weather, a storm or a sunny day, the figure is the network or foundation upon which I create these moments of fog or clarity.”

In a gallery often filled to the brim with the stuff of art, Liz Maw’s exhibition operates in bold contrast, with only a single painting displayed in the large space. The painting draws strongly on a classical or Roman sensibility, sited against the stark modernist lines of the building.

The work is a portrait of internationally acclaimed New Zealand born London-based artist Francis Upritchard, who hovers just above us, stripped back from Maw’s usual baroque style to a ghostly spirit. Holding her hands up as though to compel us, Upritchard appears as though commanding the space, perhaps conjuring up artworks to fill the gallery.

The narrative of Francis Upritchard is that of an idealised star—beautiful, talented and internationally successful. The painting can be seen as homage to Upritchard’s achievements, as well as an investigation of what it means to be a woman and an artist. Maw has described the initial process of painting Upritchard as that of acting like an obsessive fan. “I’m behaving like the protagonist in the film Single White Female”; she has said, as though in portraying Upritchard she might in some sense understand her.

The painting of Upritchard is part of a series of portraits by Maw that blend hyperrealism with fantastical elements. The portraits depict celebrities and local characters, each becoming a mirror we project our desires onto. In earlier works local ‘it girl’ Nicky Watson is shown as a 10 ft avenging angel of mercy, a very young, camp David Attenborough holds a snake suggestively away from him, while a coy and naked Michael Jackson sprouts ornate genitalia.

Maw's upbringing as Catholic is often sited in regards her art practice, and her paintings are richly imbued with both religious and historical references. The symbolism in her work is heightened and intensified to the point of kitsch—perhaps they are icons for a contemporary and more codified age. Despite the fantastical elements, at the heart of the work is a compelling sense of inquiry and belief in her characters.

Liz Maw has been included in exhibitions including Mystic Truths, Auckland Art Gallery 2007, Snake Oil: Recent Chartwell Acquisitions, Auckland Art Gallery, 2005 and Telecom Prospect 2004: New Art New Zealand, City Gallery Wellington. Her work is represented in several public collections, including the Chartwell Collection and Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand. She is represented by Ivan Anthony Gallery, Auckland, and Peter McLeavey Gallery, Wellington. 

Courtesy of Ivan Anthony Gallery, Auckland.

EyeContact review (PDF) 

See available editions by this artist 

Seung Yul Oh, PokPo


Seung Yul Oh’s installation PokPo introduces Rain, the first of a new strain of digital interactive works in collaboration with Jeff Nusz, alongside Oh’s well-known sportive and tactile sculptural practice. Rain begins with a formless grey screen, perhaps an image of the pre-biotic sea, full of the potentiality of germinating new life forms. There is a computer keyboard in the middle of the room, provoking the viewer into participating in Oh’s absorbing game-like world. Keystrokes generate seemingly unrelated events; shapes, animals, plants, sounds and character symbols appear, twirl and float around and dive out of view.

In his sculptural objects the forms entice the audience with a slick industrial finish but despite their appearance his process is hands-on. In his 2009 exhibition Bogle Bogle at TheNewDowse a mysterious white veil form was shaped by the simple gesture of laying a sheet over a plinth and layering up resin, fibreglass and epoxy. The surface is fastidiously prepared, worked at over and over until the process becomes invisible and the surface is flawless.

Oh describes his sculptural processes as ‘drawing with objects’, which could equally build our thinking around his new interactive work. Oh presents us with objects that have the potential to become active— transform, shake, disappear, wobble, reappear, ding, run away or chase us, hatch or ignite. They make us think about our role in transformative activities: making and eating food; buying or making things; reading and writing; interacting with people, machines, animals and plants. Across the mediums of paint, plaster, resin, pixel and code, the forms Oh creates are protean extrapolations that push and pull between the familiar and the strange.

Feeding off Western art and East Asian pop culture, Oh’s work gently hints at an underlying structure where everything is in a network of processes and systems, which though strange to us, are as automatic and essential as eating.

Seung Yul Oh was born in 1981 in Seoul, Korea and is currently based in Auckland. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts (2003) and a Master of Fine Arts (2005) from Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland. Oh was awarded the Waikato National Art Award and in 2004, he was awarded the Goldwater Art Award. Solo exhibitions include, Bogle Bogle (TheNewDowse, Wellington: 2009), Oddooki (Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington: 2008). He is represented by Starkwhite, Auckland.

You can also play Seung Yul Oh’s Rain at home

Courtesy of Starkwhite, Auckland.

EyeContact review (PDF)